March 14th, 2013


Meanwhile, in a nice modern lift somewhere in Brazil...

Why is it that small ghostly girls are so much scarier than small ghostly boys?

Is it simply because they trigger memories of The Exorcist, The Shining, The Ring, etc.?* Or do those films themselves draw at some more ancient well of horror? Either way, if that had been a six-year-old boy I don't believe people would have been quite as freaked.

* None of which I've seen, by the way: just reading the Wiki entry for The Ring spooked me for days.

Magic and Children, Then and Now

Back in the day, magical children didn't exist in children's literature. Nesbit, for example, wrote about children who got involved with magical creatures or objects, but while those creatures or objects might lend them magic for a limited time, for example by granting wishes, the children themselves were sturdily ordinary. That, as far as I can see, was typical: children might encounter magic users - from Molesworth's cuckoo clock to Puck, to Cole Hawlings, to Merlin - and they might get temporary magical powers as a result (often to regret it), but they weren't themselves presented as magical.

Then something changed. In the second half of the twentieth century, and particularly post 1970, we begin to meet children who are intrinsically magical. Ged. Will Stanton. Mildred Hubble. The Chants (Christopher and Laura). Buffy. Harry Potter. Percy Jackson.

First, is this even true? It's top-of-the-head stuff, and there may be many counter-examples I've not yet thought of. I suspect things are fuzzier in humorous texts, and in ones set in secondary worlds. (I'm wondering about Dorothy, for example.) But if there is any truth to it is it significant, and if so, of what? Does it reflect changing views of children and childhood? The rise of superhero comics? Different attitudes to magic itself?